High water season on the San Martín River in Bella Vista, 2014.
The missionaries I stayed with last year in Bella Vista dodged the worst of the damage, but the disaster has had rippling effects. One Bolivian told me that as much as a third of the country’s rice harvest was destroyed with last year’s floods. The nuns in charge of the boarding house in Bella Vista that supports 25 children have struggled with unavailable food staples and increased prices.
To make matters worse, about a month ago the missionaries told me that a power surge from the city’s shaky electric grid had destroyed the large freezer they use in the boarding house’s kitchen. With inconsistent food supplies in the muggy tropics, this equipment is crucial for storing the meat and perishables that feed the 25 growing children that the missionaries support.
This means the $1409.69 that friends, family, and strangers gave me to support the missionaries’ work came at a fortunate time.
Last week, one of the missionaries in Bella Vista was able to make the two-hour trip over muddy roads to the neighboring town of Magdalena, where she received the first installment of the donations by wire.
About $600 in donation money will be used to buy a new freezer, which will allow the missionaries to continue feeding the 25 orphans and children unable to attend school in their hometowns. It’s a small item that will make a big difference in quality of life for a group of kids who deserve the best.
Heavy rains are likely here to stay though. The recent spate of Bolivian floods was triggered by an unexpected shift in Atlantic trade winds. One Brazilian scientist says the floods could be a preview of the impacts of future climate change.
I’m hoping to continue to support my friends in Bella Vista as they deal with the challenges of a warming world. If you want to get involved in building economic security and climate resilience in eastern Bolivia, give me a shout.
Global warming-induced glacial melt is expected to eventually threaten the water supply of 80 million people in the Andes. I talked to some young people in Cuzco who are going to be around to see this happen:
Across the Andes, people are preparing for the coming increase in scarcity. Mira-Salama’s World Bank project used a three-pronged approach to climate change adaptation.
First, knowledge generation: creating climate models and trying to predict the impact of glacier retreat on important crops. They also installed high-altitude ready weather monitoring equipment in the mountains of Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia. And finally, the Bank tried to help with “on the ground adaptation” in select Andean communities.
“We’re working with farmers [in the Santa Teresa region of Cuzco] in showcasing better irrigation practices that are more water efficient, working with them in organizing them in water associations so that they can irrigate with pre-defined schedules, working with them in finding more climate-resilient crop varieties […] and also increasing the diversity of their crops,” Mira-Salama said.
Not all communities will have World Bank help facing glacier retreat, though. As future leaders, AYP students will have to build a viable future for their communities in a glacier-parched world.
“We need to start now to make people aware of what’s going to happen, that there’s not going to be water,” Karina Jimenez Suma of Ollantaytambo said.
One idea: plant more Queyña and Chachacoma trees, which are native to the area and do not rely heavily on water.
“We can have a campaign to plant more trees in our communities, avoid wasting water, and do more sprinkle irrigation. You see very little of that [in Ollantaytambo], only a few people know about it. I think sprinkle irrigation is one of the things that can help not use much water,” Jimenez said.
Some possible solutions are more outlandish. One Chilean geologist is exploring strategies to artificially reduce glacier melting or even create new human-made glaciers.
More, including climate changes already underway, how to help from the United States, and the first completely melted glacier, at Generation Progress.